Boeing Problems Force United Airlines To Pause Pilot Hiring

By Spyros Georgilidakis | March 10, 2024

Several airlines in the United States have had to slow down their pilot hiring recently, and now United does the same – because of Boeing.

In the last few days, United has been in the news mainly for a series of somewhat unusual incidents. But a different and perhaps more serious issue is also impacting the airline and its longer-term operations.

A United Airlines 737 MAX-9. Photo: Henry Siismets

United has been pursuing multiple pilot hiring initiatives lately, but recent Boeing issues could interfere with them. The airline started its own “Unite” aviation academy, to replace pilots who retired early in the pandemic.

However, a number of Boeing issues, going back almost a year, have been affecting United and its pilot hiring capacity. We saw how two separate issues with Spirit AeroSystems slowed down the production rate of Boeing’s 737 last year.

Photo: Spirit AeroSystems

Then in January this year, the Alaska Airlines door plug blowout of a 737 MAX-9 had more knock-on effects for Boeing. The FAA’s imposed production limit looks set to keep Boeing’s 737 output from rising as much as the manufacturer would like, and as much as the airlines need.

Boeing 737 Production Vs United Airlines Pilot Hiring (and Fleet) Plans

At the same time, Boeing’s certification of the remaining 737 MAX variants got a new delay. The climate after the MAX-9 blowout meant that Boeing won’t get an exemption on an engine nacelle redesign, as we’ve seen.

Boeing Problems Force United Airlines To Pause Pilot Hiring
Image: Boeing

This will primarily affect the MAX-7, that United hasn’t ordered. But the same issue raises new doubts about the service entry date of the bigger 737 MAX-10. And there are now persistent rumors that United could be close to securing a “monster” order of Airbus A321neos, to replace the MAX-10 in its upcoming fleet plans.

But even if this proves to be the case, the A321neos won’t arrive quickly enough for United’s plans. United is a Boeing 737 MAX-10 launch customer, which is why the type is key to its pilot hiring. The airline was expecting the first of these jets to enter service back in 2020.

Boeing Problems Force United Airlines To Pause Pilot Hiring
Frustratingly for the airline, a 737 MAX-10 is already flying in special United colors. It has been part of a NASA project to measure SAF emissions. Photo: NASA

Some months ago, United was reportedly expecting to take delivery of 80 737 MAX-10s in 2024. It was also going to pick up 77 other 737 MAX types this year, but now looks set to get just 56 of them. United will pause its hiring in May and June this year but expects to resume in July.

On the other hand, United is not alone in slowing down or stopping pilot hiring in the country – and Boeing isn’t the culprit for everyone. All-Boeing Southwest has had to do the same, but the same is true for all-Airbus Spirit Airlines, due to Pratt & Whitney GTF engine checks.


1 comment

  • Dose united airlines have only aircrafts from being or it’s has also aircrafts from airbus?!

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